#15 Valparaiso concluded the Prairie View A&M Invitational from Arlington, Texas on Sunday, posting a 10th-place finish.
The Crusaders opened the day with one final traditional match, facing #6 Vanderbilt. Despite a team-high game of 191 from fifth-year senior Torrie Decker (Van Wert, Ohio/Van Wert [Robert Morris]), Valpo fell to the Commodores, 1070-851.
“Vanderbilt shot very well against us,” said Crusader head coach Matt Nantais. “They came out striking quite a bit in the first couple frames and took our team out of it early.”
Bracket play, contested in the best-of-seven baker format, commenced for Valpo against host Prairie View A&M, who the Crusaders had lost to earlier in the weekend. Valpo found itself down 2-0, but games of 236 and 227 sandwiched a narrow three-pin win to put the Crusaders ahead 3-2. Prairie View A&M would earn a five-pin victory in game six to send the match to a decisive seventh game, where a 196 game from Valpo was enough for the 4-3 win.
“Once we got into the baker match and lost the first two games to Prairie View, I changed the lineup completely,” said Nantais. “I put in Lauren Wolski, who hadn’t bowled all weekend, and she hit the pocket every time. She gave us a boost which allowed us to come back and win four of the next five games, giving us a chance to move up the bracket.”
The win advanced the Crusaders to take on #5 Sam Houston State in the tournament finale. As in their first baker match of the day, it was a back-and-forth duel. Valpo earned wins in games two and three, rolling a 226 in the latter contest, to take a 2-1 lead, but SHSU responded with two straight wins. A 200 game from the Crusaders made it 3-3 and sent the match to game seven, but this time Sam Houston State came out on top, winning the finale 232-220 as Valpo fell 4-3.
“We came out flat against Sam Houston – even though we shot 200 in the first game, we had three open frames, which allowed them to win that game and ended up costing us the match,” said Nantais. “We shot well the rest of the match, especially in the last game, rolling a 220 – they just threw the last six strikes to beat us. But I was glad to see we didn’t give up and fought to seven games against the team that won the national championship last year.”
Valparaiso (38-44) is off from tournament competition until the end of the month, when it travels to North Kansas City, Mo. for the Central Missouri Invitational, beginning on Friday, Feb. 27.
“The field at this tournament had nine of the nation’s top-10 teams, so it was pretty much like bowling a national championship caliber tournament this weekend,” said Nantais. “We have the next three weeks off before going to Central Missouri, so we have time to put together a game plan on what we need to work on to make us a little more successful when we head down there.”